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The Ten Commandments (1956 film)

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The Ten Commandments is a 1956 American biblical epic film produced, directed, and narrated by Cecil B DeMille,4 shot in VistaVision color by Technicolor, and released by Paramount Pictures The film is based on Prince of Egypt by Dorothy Clarke Wilson,5 Pillar of Fire by JH Ingraham,6 On Eagle's Wings by AE Southon,7 and the Book of Exodus The Ten Commandments dramatizes the biblical story of the life of Moses, an adopted Egyptian prince who becomes the deliverer of his real brethren, the enslaved Hebrews, and therefore leads the Exodus to Mount Sinai, where he receives, from God, the Ten Commandments The film stars Charlton Heston in the lead role, Yul Brynner as Rameses, Anne Baxter as Nefretiri, Edward G Robinson as Dathan, Yvonne De Carlo as Sephora, Debra Paget as Lilia, and John Derek as Joshua; and features Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Sethi, Nina Foch as Bithiah, Martha Scott as Yoshebel, Judith Anderson as Memnet, and Vincent Price as Baka, among others4

Filmed on location in Egypt, Mount Sinai and the Sinai Peninsula, the film was DeMille's last and most successful work8 It is a partial remake of his 1923 silent film of the same title, and features one of the largest sets ever created for a film8 The film was released to cinemas in the USA on 5 October 19569 and, at the time of its release, was the most expensive film ever made8

In 1957, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, winning the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects John P Fulton, ASC10 Charlton Heston was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture Drama for his role as Moses10 Yul Brynner won the National Board of Review Award for Best Actor for his role as Rameses and his other roles in Anastasia and The King and I10 It is also one of the most financially successful films ever made, grossing approximately $1227 million at the box office during its initial release; it was the most successful film of 1956 and the second-highest-grossing film of the decade According to Guinness World Records, in terms of theatrical exhibition it is the seventh most successful film of all-time when the box office gross is adjusted for inflation

In 1999, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its "Ten Top Ten"—the best ten films in ten American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community The film was listed as the tenth best film in the epic genre1112 Network television has aired the film in prime time during the Passover/Easter season every year since 1973 The last credited actor in the movie still alive is Joanna Merlin13


  • 1 Plot
  • 2 Cast
  • 3 Production
    • 31 Writing
    • 32 Casting
    • 33 Art direction
    • 34 Special effects
    • 35 Music
  • 4 Release
  • 5 Reception
    • 51 Box office
    • 52 Critical response
    • 53 Accolades
  • 6 Popularity
  • 7 Home media
  • 8 Television broadcast
  • 9 See also
  • 10 References
    • 101 Sources
  • 11 External links


Pharaoh Rameses I of Egypt has ordered the death of all firstborn Hebrew males, but Yoshebel saves her infant son by setting him adrift in a basket on the Nile Bithiah, the Pharaoh's daughter, finds the basket and decides to adopt the boy even though her servant, Memnet, recognizes the child is Hebrew Bithiah names the baby Moses

Prince Moses grows up to become a successful general, winning a war with Ethiopia and establishing an alliance Moses loves princess Nefretiri, who must marry the next Pharaoh She reciprocates his love While working on the building of a city for Pharaoh Sethi's jubilee, Moses meets the stonecutter Joshua, who tells him of the Hebrew God Moses saves an elderly woman from being crushed, and he scolds the overseer Baka Moses does not know that the woman is his biological mother, Yoshebel

Moses reforms the treatment of slaves on the project, but Prince Rameses, Moses's "brother", charges him with planning an insurrection Moses says he is making his workers more productive Rameses wonders if Moses is the man the Hebrews are calling the Deliverer

Nefretiri learns from Memnet that Moses is the son of Hebrew slaves Nefretiri kills Memnet but reveals the story to Moses only after he finds the piece of Levite cloth he was wrapped in as a baby, which Memnet had kept Moses follows Bithiah to Yoshebel's house where he meets his birth mother and family

Moses learns more about the slaves by working with them Nefretiri urges him to return to the palace so he may help his people when he becomes pharaoh, to which he agrees after he completes a final task Moses saves Joshua from death by strangling Baka, telling Joshua that he too is Hebrew The confession is witnessed by the overseer Dathan Dathan tells Rameses, who then arrests Moses Moses explains that he is not the Deliverer, but would free the slaves if he could Rameses is declared the next Pharaoh Rameses banishes Moses to the desert

Moses makes his way across the desert to a well in Midian He defends seven sisters from Amalekites He is housed with the girls' father Jethro, a Bedouin sheik, who worships the God of Abraham Moses marries Jethro's eldest daughter Sephora

Moses finds Joshua, who has escaped hard labor Moses sees the burning bush on the summit of Mount Sinai and hears the voice of God Moses returns to Egypt to free the Hebrews

Moses comes before Rameses, now pharaoh, to win the slaves' freedom, turning his staff into a cobra Jannes performs the same trick with his staves, but Moses's snake is superior Rameses prohibits straw from being provided to the Hebrews to make their bricks Nefretiri rescues Moses from being stoned to death by the Hebrews He tells her he is married

Egypt is visited by plagues Moses turns the river Nile to blood at a festival of Khnum and brings burning hail down upon Pharaoh's palace Moses warns him the next plague to fall upon Egypt will be summoned by Pharaoh himself Enraged at the plagues, Rameses orders all first-born Hebrews to die Instead, a cloud of death kills all the firstborn of Egypt, including the child of Rameses and Nefretiri Angrily, Pharaoh exiles the Hebrews, which begins the Exodus from Egypt

Rameses takes his army and pursues the Hebrews to the Red Sea Moses uses God's help to stop the Egyptians with a pillar of fire Moses parts the Red Sea and the Hebrews struggle toward the other side Moses releases the walls of water, drowning the Egyptian army Rameses returns empty-handed to Nefretiri, telling her, "His god is God"

Moses again ascends the mountain with Joshua Impatiently, Dathan urges the Hebrews to construct a golden calf idol as a gift for Rameses A wild and decadent orgy is held by most of the Hebrews

Moses sees the Ten Commandments created by God in two stone tablets Moses descends from the mountain to the sight of decadence He throws the tablets at the golden calf, which explodes, killing the wicked revelers

Forty years later, an elderly Moses leads the Hebrews to Canaan He names Joshua as leader, and walks alone out of Israel


  • Charlton Heston as Moses and the voice of God as the Burning Bush in a low register
    • Fraser Heston as The Infant Moses
  • Yul Brynner as Rameses II
  • Anne Baxter as Nefretiri
  • Edward G Robinson as Dathan
  • Yvonne De Carlo as Sephora
  • Debra Paget as Lilia
  • John Derek as Joshua
  • Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Sethi
  • Nina Foch as Bithiah
  • Martha Scott as Yochabel
  • Judith Anderson as Memnet
  • Vincent Price as Baka
  • John Carradine as Aaron
  • Olive Deering as Miriam
  • Douglass Dumbrille as Jannes
  • Frank de Kova as Abiram
  • Henry Wilcoxon as Pentaur
  • Eduard Franz as Jethro
  • Donald Curtis as Mered
  • Lawrence Dobkin as Hur Ben Caleb
  • H B Warner as Amminadab
  • Julia Faye as Elisheba
  • Lisa Mitchell as Jethro's daughter, Lulua
  • Noelle Williams as Jethro's daughter
  • Joanna Merlin as Jethro's daughter
  • Pat Richard as Jethro's daughter
  • Joyce Vanderveen as Jethro's daughter
  • Diane Hall as Jethro's daughter
  • Abbas El Boughdadly as Rameses' Charioteer
  • Calvalry Corps Egyptian Armed Forces as Pharaoh's Chariot Host
  • John Miljan as The Blind One
  • Francis J McDonald as Simon
  • Ian Keith as Rameses I
  • Paul De Rolf as Eleazar
  • Woodrow Strode as King of Ethiopia
  • Tommy Duran as Gershom
  • Eugene Mazzola as Rameses' Son, Amun
  • Ramsay Hill as Korah
  • Joan Woodbury as Korah's Wife
  • Esther Brown as Princess Tharbis
  • Babette Bain as Little Miriam14
  • Mimi Gibson as little girl
  • Addison Richards as fan bearer
  • Peter Hansen as Young aide1516
  • Delos Jewkes as the voice of God 17 uncredited
  • Cecil B DeMille as Narrator uncredited



The final shooting script was written by Aeneas MacKenzie, Jesse L Lasky Jr, Jack Gariss, and Fredric M Frank18 It also contained material from the books Prince of Egypt by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, Pillar of Fire by Joseph Holt Ingraham, and On Eagle's Wings by Arthur Eustace Southon19 Henry Noerdlinger, the film's researcher, consulted ancient historical texts such as the Midrash Rabbah, Philo's Life of Moses, and the writings of Josephus and Eusebius in order to "fill in" the missing years of Moses' life,19 and as the film's last opening title card states, "the Holy Scriptures"


Charlton Heston, who had previously worked with DeMille in The Greatest Show on Earth, won the part of Moses after he impressed DeMille at his audition with his knowledge of ancient Egypt Interestingly enough, William Boyd, DeMille's first choice to be audition to be Moses in the film, refused the part Heston was also chosen to be the voice of God in the form of a burning bush, toned down to a softer and lower registercitation needed

Heston's newborn son, Fraser born February 12, 1955, was cast by DeMille on the suggestion of Henry Wilcoxon, who said to him "The timing's just right If it's a boy, who better to play the Baby Moses" as soon as Heston announced to DeMille that his wife Lydia was pregnant20 Fraser Heston was three months old during filming21

The part of Nefretiri, the Egyptian throne princess, was considered "the most sought after role of the year" in 195422 Ann Blyth, Vanessa Brown, Joan Evans, Rhonda Fleming, Coleen Gray, Jane Griffiths, Audrey Hepburn, Jean Marie, Vivien Leigh, Jane Russell, and Joan Taylor were considered for the part23 DeMille liked Audrey Hepburn but dismissed her because of her figure, which was considered too slim for the character's Egyptian gowns24 Anne Baxter who was considered for the part of Moses' wife was cast in the role25

Judith Ames, Anne Bancroft, Anne Baxter, Shirley Booth, Diane Brewster, Peggie Castle, June Clayworth, Linda Darnell, Laura Elliot, Rhonda Fleming, Rita Gam, Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Green, Barbara Hale, Allison Hayes, Frances Lansing, Patricia Neal, Marie Palmer, Jean Peters, Ruth Roman, Barbara Rush, and Elizabeth Sellers were considered for the part of Sephora26 Grace Kelly, DeMille's first choice, was unavailable26 DeMille was "very much impressed" with Yvonne De Carlo's performance as a "saintly type of woman" in MGM's Sombrero2728 He "sensed in her a depth, an emotional power, a womanly strength which the part of Sephora needed and which she gave it"29 Sephora is the Douay–Rheims version of the name of Zipporah30

Merle Oberon and Claudette Colbert were considered for the role of Bithiah before DeMille chose Jayne Meadows who declined and finally cast Nina Foch, on the suggestion of Henry Wilcoxon, who had worked with her in Scaramouche31

For the role of Memnet, Flora Robson was considered and Bette Davis was interviewed DeMille's casting journal also notes Marjorie Rambeau and Marie Windsor32 but DeMille chose Judith Anderson after screening Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca31

Henry Wilcoxon's wife Joan Woodbury was cast as Korah's wife in the Golden Calf sequence33

DeMille was reluctant to cast anyone who had appeared in 20th Century Fox's The Egyptian,34 a rival production at the time35 Several exceptions to this are the casting of John Carradine and Mimi Gibson in credited supporting roles and Michael Ansara and Peter Coe in uncredited minor roles, who appeared in both films

For the Large Crowd shots, at least 14,000 extras and 15,000 animals were used while filming this movie36

Art directionedit

The Ten Commandments shortened version written in 10th century BC characters, like on DeMille's tablets

Commentary for the film's DVD edition chronicles the historical research done by DeMille and associates Katherine Orrison says that many details of Moses' life left out of the Bible are present in the Quran, which was sometimes used as a source She also presents some coincidences in production The man who designed Moses' distinctive rust-white-and-black-striped robe used those colors because they looked impressive, and only later discovered that these are the actual colors of the Tribe of Levi Arnold Friberg would later state that he was the one who designed Moses' costume As a gift, after the production, DeMille gave Moses' robe to Friberg, who had it in his possession until his death in 2010 Moses' robe as worn by Charlton Heston was hand-woven by Dorothea Hulse, one of the world's finest weavers She also created costumes for The Robe, as well as textiles and costume fabrics for Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba, and others

Jesse Lasky Jr, a co-writer on The Ten Commandments, described how DeMille would customarily spread out prints of paintings by Lawrence Alma-Tadema to inform his set designers on the look he wanted to achieve Arnold Friberg, in addition to designing sets and costumes, also contributed the manner in which Moses ordained Joshua to his mission at the end of the film: by the laying on of hands, placing his hands on Joshua's head Friberg, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, demonstrated the LDS manner of performing such ordinations, and DeMille liked it

Pharaoh is usually shown wearing the red-and-white crown of Upper and Lower Egypt or the nemes royal headdress For his pursuit of the Israelites, he wears the blue Khepresh helmet-crown, which the pharaohs wore for battle

Sets, costumes and props from the film The Egyptian were bought and re-used for The Ten Commandments As the events in The Egyptian take place 70 years before the reign of Rameses II, an unintentional sense of continuity was created

An Egyptian wall painting was also the source for the lively dance performed by a circle of young women at Seti's birthday gala Their movements and costumes are based on art from the Tomb of the Sixth Dynasty Grand Vizier Mehu37 Some of the film's cast members, such as Baxter, Paget, Derek, and Foch, wore brown contact lenses, at the behest of DeMille, in order to conceal their light-colored eyes which were considered inadequate for their roles38 Paget once said that, "If it hadn't been for the lenses I wouldn't have got the part"38 However, she also said that the lenses were "awful to work in because the kleig lights heat them up"38 When DeMille cast Yvonne De Carlo as Sephora, she was worried about having to wear these contact lenses; she also believed that her gray eyes were her best feature39 She asked DeMille to make an exception for her He agreed, expressing the idea that De Carlo's role was special, and that Moses was to fall in love with her39

Special effectsedit

The special photographic effects in The Ten Commandments were created by John P Fulton, ASC who received an Academy Award for his effects in the film, head of the special effects department at Paramount Pictures, assisted by Paul Lerpae, ASC in Optical Photography blue screen "travelling matte" composites and Farciot Edouart, ASC, in Process Photography rear projection effects40 Fulton’s effects included the building of Sethi’s Jubilee treasure city, the Burning Bush, the fiery hail from a cloudless sky, the Angel of Death, the composites of the Exodus, the Pillar of Fire, the giving of the Ten Commandments, and the tour de force, the parting of the Red Sea41 The parting of the Red Sea was considered the most difficult special effect ever performed up to that time41 This effect took about six months of VistaVision filming, and combined scenes shot on the shores of the Red Sea in Egypt, with scenes filmed at Paramount Studios in Hollywood of a huge water tank split by a U-shaped trough, into which approximately 360,000 gallons of water were released from the sides, as well as the filming of a giant waterfall also built on the Paramount backlot to create the effect of the walls of the parted sea out of the turbulent backwash42 All of the multiple elements of the shot were then combined in Paul Lerpae's optical printer, and matte paintings of rocks by Jan Domela concealed the matte lines between the real elements and the special effects elements43 Unlike the technique used by ILM for Raiders of the Lost Ark and Poltergeist of injecting poster paints into a glass tank containing a salt water inversion layer, the cloud effects for The Ten Commandments were formed with white Britt smoke filmed against a translucent sky backing, and colors were added optically44 Striking portraits of Charlton Heston as Moses and three women in front of menacing clouds were photographed by Wallace Kelly, ASC in Farciot Edouart’s process rear projection department, in what are still considered unforgettable scenes44 DeMille used these scenes to break up the montage, framing his subjects like a Renaissance master44 An abundance of blue screen spillage or "bleeding" can be seen, particularly at the top of the superimposed walls of water, but rather than detracting from the shot, this unintentionally gives the scene an eerie yet spectacular appearance The parting of the Red Sea sequence is considered by many to be one of the greatest special effects of all time45

DeMille was reluctant to discuss technical details of how the film was made, especially the optical tricks used in the parting of the Red Sea It was eventually revealed that footage of the Red Sea was spliced with film footage run in reverse of water pouring from large U-shaped trip-tanks set up in the studio backlot464748


The score for The Ten Commandments was composed and conducted by Elmer Bernstein Initially, DeMille hired Bernstein, then a relatively unknown film composer, to write and record only the diegetic music required for the film's dance sequences and other onscreen musical passages, with the intention of employing frequent collaborator Victor Young to write the score proper However, Young turned down the assignment due to his own failing health, causing DeMille to hire Bernstein to write the underscore as well49

In total, Bernstein composed two and a half hours of music for the film, writing for a full symphony orchestra augmented with various ethnic and unusual instruments such as the shofar, the tiple, and the theremin The score is written in a highly Romantic style, featuring unique musical leitmotifs for the film's characters God, Moses, Rameses, Nefretiri, etc used in a manner inspired, at DeMille's direction, by the opera scores of Richard Wagner50 Bernstein recorded both the diegetic music and the score at the Paramount Studios Recording Stage in sessions spread from April 1955 to August 195651

A double-LP monaural soundtrack album was released in 1957 by Dot Records, utilizing excerpts from the original film recordings A stereo version of the 1957 album was released in 1960 containing new recordings conducted by Bernstein, as the original film recordings, while recorded in three-channel stereo, were not properly balanced for an LP stereo release, as the intent at the time of recording had been to mix the film masters to mono for the film soundtrack itself; this recording was later issued on CD by MCA Classics in 1989 For the film's tenth anniversary, United Artists Records released a second stereo re-recording in 1966, also conducted by Bernstein and employing different orchestral arrangements unique to this release52

For the film's 60th anniversary, Intrada Records released a 6-CD album of the score in 2016 The Intrada release contains the complete two and a half hour score as originally recorded by Bernstein, with much of it remixed in true stereo for the first time In addition, the 2016 release contains all the diegetic music recorded for the film, the original 1957 Dot album in mono, the 1960 Dot album in stereo, and the 1966 United Artists album, as well a 12-minute recording of Bernstein auditioning his thematic ideas for DeMille on the piano


Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner at the New York premiere Anne Baxter at the New York premiere Yvonne De Carlo and Bob Morgan, her husband, at the New York premiere

The Ten Commandments premiered at New York City's Criterion Theatre on November 8, 195653 Among those who attended the premiere were Cecil B DeMille and his daughter Cecilia DeMille Harper, Charlton Heston and his wife Lydia Clarke, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo and her husband Bob Morgan, Martha Scott and her husband and son, John Wayne and his wife Pilar Pallete, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, and Barney Balaban It played on a roadshow basis with reserved seating until mid-1958, when it finally entered general release54 It was re-released in 1966 and 1972, and one more time in 1989 The 1972 and 1989 re-issues included 70mm and 35mm prints that reframed the picture's aspect ratio to 220:1 and 235:1, respectively, cropping the top and bottom of the picture's original 185:1 aspect ratio55 The Ten Commandments was released on DVD on March 30, 1999; March 9, 2004, as a Special Collector's Edition; and March 29, 2011, as a Special edition and Standard edition56


Box officeedit

The Ten Commandments was the highest-grossing film of 1956 and the second most successful film of the decade By April 1957, the film had earned an unprecedented $10 million from engagements at just eighty theaters, averaging about $1 million per week, with more than seven million people paying to watch it54 During its initial release, it earned theater rentals the distributor's share of the box office gross of $313 million in North America and $239 million from the foreign markets, for a total of $552 million equating to approximately $1227 million in ticket sales3 It was hugely profitable for its era, earning a net profit of $18,500,000,57 against a production budget of $1327 million the most a film had cost up to that point2

By the time of its withdrawal from distribution at the end of 1960, The Ten Commandments had overtaken Gone with the Wind at the box office in the North American territory,58 and mounted a serious challenge in the global market—the worldwide takings for Gone with the Wind were reported to stand at $59 million at the time59 Gone with the Wind would be re-released the following year as part of the American Civil War Centennial, and reasserted its supremacy at the box office by reclaiming the US record58 Also at this time, Ben-Hur—another biblical epic starring Charlton Heston released at the end of 1959—would go on to eclipse The Ten Commandments at the box office360 A 1966 reissue earned $6,000,000,61 and further re-releases brought the total American theater rentals to $43 million,62 equivalent to gross ticket sales of $89 million at the box office55 Globally, it ultimately collected $90,066,230 in revenues up to 197963

It remains one of the most popular films ever made Adjusted for inflation, it has earned a box office gross equivalent to $2 billion at 2011 prices, according to Guinness World Records; only Gone with the Wind 1939, Avatar 2009, Star Wars 1977, Titanic 1997, The Sound of Music 1965, and ET the Extra-Terrestrial 1982 have generated higher grosses in constant dollars64

Critical responseedit

As Mr DeMille presents it in this three-hour-and-thirty-nine-minute film, which is by far the largest and most expensive that he has ever made, it is a moving story of the spirit of freedom rising in a man, under the divine inspiration of his Maker And, as such, it strikes a ringing note today

Bosley Crowther for The New York Times65

The Ten Commandments received generally positive reviews after its release, although some reviewers noted its divergence from the biblical text Bosley Crowther for The New York Times was among those who lauded DeMille's work, acknowledging that "in its remarkable settings and décor, including an overwhelming facade of the Egyptian city from which the Exodus begins, and in the glowing Technicolor in which the picture is filmed—Mr DeMille has worked photographic wonders"65 Variety described the "scenes of the greatness that was Egypt, and Hebrews by the thousands under the whip of the taskmasters" as "striking," and believed that the film "hits the peak of beauty with a sequence that is unelaborate, this being the Passover supper wherein Moses is shown with his family while the shadow of death falls on Egyptian first-borns"66

The film's cast was also complimented Variety called Charlton Heston an "adaptable performer" who, as Moses, reveals "inner glow as he is called by God to remove the chains of slavery that hold his people"66 It considered Yul Brynner "expert" as Rameses, too66 Anne Baxter's performance as Nefretiri was criticized by Variety as leaning "close to old-school siren histrionics,"66 but Crowther believed that it, along with Brynner's, is "unquestionably apt and complementary to a lusty and melodramatic romance"65 The performances of Yvonne De Carlo and John Derek were acclaimed by Crowther as "notably good"65 He also commended the film's "large cast of characters" as "very good, from Sir Cedric Hardwicke as a droll and urbane Pharaoh to Edward G Robinson as a treacherous overlord"65

Leonard Maltin, a contemporary film critic, gave the film four out of four stars and described it as "vivid storytelling at its best parting of the Red Sea, writing of the holy tablets are unforgettable highlights"67

Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively collected 33 reviews and gave the film a rating of 94% "Certified fresh" approval rating, with the site's consensus stating: "Bombastic and occasionally silly but extravagantly entertaining, Cecil B DeMille's all-star spectacular is a muscular retelling of the great Bible story"68

Camille Paglia has called The Ten Commandments one of the ten greatest films of all time69


The Ten Commandments won the Academy Award for Best Special Effects John P Fulton70 It was also nominated for Best Color Art Direction art directors Hal Pereira, Walter H Tyler, and Albert Nozaki and set decorators Sam Comer and Ray Moyer, Best Color Cinematography Loyal Griggs, Best Color Costume Design Edith Head, Ralph Jester, John Jensen, Dorothy Jeakins, and Arnold Friberg, Best Film Editing Anne Bauchens, Best Motion Picture Cecil B DeMille and Best Sound Recording Paramount Studio Sound Department and sound director Loren L Ryder70 Paramount submitted the names of Yvonne De Carlo, John Derek, and Debra Paget for the supporting player categories even though they received star billing in the film at the 29th Academy Awards,71 but the actors did not receive nominations

Charlton Heston's performance as Moses was ranked as the 4th Best Performance by a Male Star of 1956 by The Film Daily's Filmdom's Famous Five Poll72 Heston was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama73 and later won the Fotograma de Plata Award for Best Foreign Performer in 195974

Yul Brynner won the National Board of Review Award for Best Actor for his performance as Rameses75

Cecil B DeMille won many special awards for the film He received, among others, the Los Angeles Examiner Award,76 the Boxoffice Blue Ribbon Award for the Best Picture of the Month January 1957,77 the Photoplay Achievement Award,76 and The Christian Herald's Reader's Award for the Picture of the Year 195776

The Maryland State Council of the American Jewish Congress awarded the Stephen S Wise Medallion to DeMille for "most inspiring film of the year"7678 Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Edward G Robinson, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Nina Foch, and Martha Scott also received awards for their acting787980

The film was also included in several of the annual top ten film lists, such as those featured in The Film Daily and Photoplay76

The American Film Institute included the film as #10 in the epic film category in AFI's 10 Top 10, #79 in AFI's 100 Years100 Cheers, and named Moses as the #43 hero in AFI's 100 Years100 Heroes and Villains


Critics have argued that considerable liberties were taken with the biblical story of Exodus, compromising the film's claim to authenticity, but neither this nor its nearly four-hour length has had any effect on its popularity In fact, many of the supposed inaccuracies were actually adopted by DeMille from extra-biblical ancient sources, such as Josephus, the Sepher ha-Yashar, and the Chronicle of Moses Moses's career in Ethiopia, for instance, is based on ancient midrashim81 For decades, a showing of The Ten Commandments was a popular fundraiser among revivalist Christian Churches, while the film was equally treasured by film buffs for DeMille's "cast of thousands" approach and the heroic but antiquated early-talkie-type acting

Home mediaedit

The artist's rendering of Charlton Heston as Moses added increased muscle, as per modern physique standards, when the DVD was released

The Ten Commandments has been released on DVD in the United States on four occasions: the first edition Widescreen Collection was released on March 30, 1999 as a two-disc set,82 the second edition Special Collector's Edition was released on March 9, 2004, as a two-disc set with commentary by Katherine Orrison,83 the third edition 50th Anniversary Collection was released on March 21, 2006 as a three-disc set with the 1923 version and special features,84 and the fourth edition 55th Anniversary Edition was released on DVD again in a two-disc set on March 29, 2011, and for the first time on Blu-ray in a two-disc set and a six-disc limited edition gift set with the 1923 version and DVD copies85 In 2012, the limited edition gift set won the Home Media Award for Best Packaging Paramount Pictures and JohnsByrne86

Television broadcastedit

With the exception of 1999,87 this film has been broadcast annually on the ABC network since 1973, traditionally during the Passover and Easter holidays For much of that period ABC has aired it on the evening of Easter Sunday

Unlike many lengthy films of the day, which were usually broken up into separate airings over at least two nights, ABC elected to show the entire film in one night and has done so every year it has carried The Ten Commandments, with one exception; in 1997, ABC elected to split the movie in two and aired half of it in its normal Easter Sunday slot, which that year was March 30, with the second half airing on Monday, March 31 as counterprogramming to the other networks' offerings, which included CBS' coverage of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Game88

The length of the film combined with the necessary advertisement breaks has caused its broadcast window to vary over the years, and today, ABC's total run time for The Ten Commandments stands at four hours and forty-four minutes This requires the network to overrun into the 11:00 pm/11:00 pm CT/MT timeslot that belongs to the local affiliates, thus delaying their late local news and any other programming the station may air in the overnight hours with some stations forgoing a late newscast entirely and giving personnel the evening off When the film has aired on Easter Sunday, the local ABC affiliates are given the ability to tape delay the showing an hour ahead to 8 pm ET/PT to keep their schedules in line for early evening though at the cost of delaying their local newscasts to around 1:00 am/midnight CT/MT

In more recent years, ABC chose to air other programming on Easter night and instead aired The Ten Commandments the night before as part of its Saturday night lineup, with the broadcast starting at 8:00 pm Eastern In 2015, for the first time in several years, the network returned to airing the film on Easter Sunday night, which fell on April 589 In 2016 ABC's broadcast returned to Saturday, thereby allowing affiliates the option of airing the film at 7:00/6:00 CT/MT or 8:00/7:00 CT/MT It is thus the only pre-scheduled ABC Saturday Movie of the Week title in that film series yearly

In 2010, the film was broadcast in high definition for the first time, which allowed the television audience to see it in its original VistaVision aspect ratio

Ratings by year since 2007
Year Airdate Rating Share Rating/Share
2007 4-07-2007 TBA 787 TBA TBA TBA TBA
2008 3-22-2008 47 9 23/7 791 1 1
2009 4-11-2009 42 8 17/6 681 1 1
201090 4-03-2010 TBA TBA 14/5 588 2 3
201191 4-23-2011 16/5 705 1 1
201292 4-07-2012 690 TBA TBA
201393 3-30-2013 12/4 590 2 2
201494 4-19-2014 10/4 587 1 1
201595 4-05-2015 14/5 680 TBA TBA
201696 3-26-2016 08/3 542 2 2
201797 4-15-2017 518 1 1

See alsoedit

  • List of American films of 1956
  • The Ten Commandments 1923 film
  • The Prince of Egypt
  • List of films featuring slavery
  • Whitewashing in film


  1. ^ Louvish 2008, p 481
  2. ^ a b Reported budgets:
    • Hall & Neale 2010, p 159 " a record $13,266,491"
    • Birchard 2004, ch 70 The Ten Commandments "$13,272,381"
  3. ^ a b c Block & Wilson 2010, p 327
  4. ^ a b "The Ten Commandments" Turner Classic Movies Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System Time Warner Retrieved November 13, 2016 
  5. ^ Wilson, Dorothy Clarke 1949 Prince of Egypt 1st ed London: Westminster Press ASIN B000TXRZKQ 
  6. ^ Ingraham, JH 2013 The Pillar of Fire Release ed India: Palala Press ISBN 978-1340906429 
  7. ^ Southon, AE 1939 On Eagles' Wings Oxford: Lowe and Brydone ASIN B0008855X6 
  8. ^ a b c "Life Magazine - Nov 12, 1956, pg 115" Life Retrieved 5 September 2013 
  9. ^ "The Ten Commandments" Box Office Mojo 5 October 1956 Retrieved 22 January 2017 
  10. ^ a b c "Internet Movie Database – Awards for The Ten Commandments 1956" Retrieved November 17, 2011 
  11. ^ American Film Institute June 17, 2008 "AFI Crowns Top 10 Films in 10 Classic Genres" ComingSoonnet Retrieved June 18, 2008 
  12. ^ "Top 10 Epic" American Film Institute Retrieved June 18, 2008 
  13. ^ "Azaria plays ball — and Herb Alpert was in ‘The Ten Commandments’" April 13, 2017 
  14. ^ "Riselle Bain: Called by the spotlight" Sarasota Herald-Tribune Sarasota, Florida: New Media Investment Group December 22, 2014 Retrieved December 24, 2014 When legendary director Cecile B DeMille was screening schoolchildren for the role of Moses' older sister Miriam, he asked Riselle Bain if she could recite a poem from memory Bain completed all four verses of "Daffodils" and that's the short version of how she wound up in the 1956 classic The Ten Commandments She would likely have introduced herself as Babette, her second name, which is how she is credited in the DeMille film and her other Hollywood endeavors  front page newspaper story with video, Sarasota, Florida Photo as Miriam
  15. ^ Reid 2013, p 144
  16. ^ Reid 2006, p 315
  17. ^ "Delos Jewkes" 
  18. ^ Orrison 1999, p 36
  19. ^ a b Eyman 2010, p 440
  20. ^ Wilcoxon and Orrison, Lionheart in Hollywood p 245
  21. ^ Orrison 1999, p 29
  22. ^ Parsons, Louella June 4, 1954 "Joan Bennett Gets Top Role in Bogart Film" The Milwaukee Sentinel Retrieved May 14, 2014 
  23. ^ Orrison 1999, p 54
  24. ^ Orrison 1999, p 61
  25. ^ Orrison 1999, p 49
  26. ^ a b Orrison 1999, p 54-55
  27. ^ Hopper, Hedda December 29, 1956 "Yvonne DeCarlo Settles Down to Domestic Life" The Spokesman-Review Retrieved March 28, 2014 
  28. ^ Nelson, Valerie J January 11, 2007 "Actress Yvonne De Carlo, of 'Munsters' fame, dies" The Spokesman-Review Retrieved March 28, 2014 
  29. ^ DeMille 1959, p 416
  30. ^ Noerdlinger 1956, p 70
  31. ^ a b Orrison 1999, p 51
  32. ^ Orrison 1999, p 53
  33. ^ Wilcoxon and Orrison, Lionheart in Hollywood, p309
  34. ^ Orrison 1999, p 7
  35. ^ Orrison 1999, p 6
  36. ^ "The Ten Commandments 1956 Trivia" 
  37. ^ "Party Time in Ancient Egypt" 
  38. ^ a b c Belser, Emily June 1, 1955 "Now Stars Change Eyes Just Like Pair Of Shoes" The Miami News Retrieved 28 March 2014 
  39. ^ a b Katherine Orrison's audio commentary for The Ten Commandments 50th Anniversary Collection DVD 2006
  40. ^ The Ten Commandments Motion picture credits: DeMille, Cecil B
  41. ^ a b Brosnan, John 1974 Movie Magic 1st edSt Martin’s Press, Inc: New York Pp 77-80 ISBN 0356046990
  42. ^ The Ten Commandments Documentary: “Making Miracles” Six-Disc Limited Edition Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Cecil B DeMille / Paramount Hollywood, California: Paramount Pictures2011
  43. ^ Matte Shot – A Tribute to Golden Era Special FX: The Wild and Wonderful World of John P Fulton http://nzpetesmatteshotblogspotcom/2010/08/wild-and-wonderful-world-of-johnhtml Retrieved 5 July 2014
  44. ^ a b c Mandell, Paul R April 1983 "Parting the Red Sea and Other Miracles" American Cinematographer, pp 125-126
  45. ^ Stanbury, Patrick, 5 April 2004 Cecil B DeMille: American Epic Turner Classic Movies TCM
  46. ^ Den of Geek "Top 50 Movie Special Effects Shots" Retrieved January 2, 2009 
  47. ^ PBS "NOVA Online/Special Effects/All About Special Effects/Trivia Quiz Answers" Retrieved January 2, 2009 
  48. ^ "The Parting Of The Red Sea" The Art & Science of Movie Special Effects Archived from the original on October 29, 2009 Retrieved 29 September 2013 
  49. ^ DeWald, Frank K 2016 "So Let It Be Written So Let It Be Done" The Ten Commandments: 60th Anniversary Soundtrack Collection Intrada Records 
  50. ^ Ibid
  51. ^ "Technical Notes" The Ten Commandments: 60th Anniversary Soundtrack Collection Intrada Records 2016 
  52. ^ Fake, Douglas 2016 "Tech Talk from the Producer" The Ten Commandments: 60th Anniversary Soundtrack Collection Intrada Records 
  53. ^ Eyman, Scott 2010 Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B DeMille Simon and Schuster ISBN 1439180415 
  54. ^ a b "The Ten Commandments 1956 – Notes" TCM database Turner Broadcasting System Retrieved October 2, 2013 
  55. ^ a b Block & Wilson 2010, p 392
  56. ^ "The Ten Commandments" Paramount Home Media Distribution Paramount Pictures March 30, 1999 ASIN 0792154649 Retrieved November 13, 2016 CS1 maint: ASIN uses ISBN link
  57. ^ Steinberg, Cobbett 1980 Film Facts New York: Facts on File, Inc p 23 ISBN 0-87196-313-2 
  58. ^ a b Hall & Neale 2010, pp 160–161
  59. ^ Oviatt, Ray April 16, 1961 "The Memory Isn't Gone With The Wind" Toledo Blade p 67–68 
  60. ^ Block & Wilson 2010, p 324
  61. ^ Holston, Kim R 2012 Movie Roadshows: A History and Filmography of Reserved-Seat Limited Showings, 1911–1973 McFarland ISBN 0786460628 
  62. ^ Stempel, Tom 2001 American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing University Press of Kentucky p 24 ISBN 9780813121833 
  63. ^ Birchard 2004, ch 70 The Ten Commandments
  64. ^ Glenday, Craig, ed 2011 Гиннесс Мировые рекорды 2012 Guinness World Records 2012 in Russian Translated by PI Andrianov & IV Palova Moscow: Astrel p 211 ISBN 978-5-271-36423-5 
  65. ^ a b c d e Crowther, Bosley New York Times Film Reviews: Best Picture Picks from the 1950s The New York Times New York City: The New York Times Company ISBN 1625395590 
  66. ^ a b c d "Review: "The Ten Commandments"" Varietypublisher=Penske Media Corporation United States Retrieved 11 September 2013 
  67. ^ Maltin, Leonard 2009 Leonard Maltin's 2010 Movie Guide New York City: Plume ISBN 1101108762 
  68. ^ The Ten Commandments at Rotten Tomatoes
  69. ^ al, Nick James, et "BFI - Sight & Sound - Top Ten Poll 2002 - How the directors and critics voted" 
  70. ^ a b "The 29th Academy Awards 1957 Nominees and Winners" oscarsorg Retrieved August 21, 2011 
  71. ^ "Paramount Reduces 'Ten' Billings Of De Carlo, Derek, Paget To Get 'Em In Oscar Race" Variety January 4, 1957  |access-date= requires |url= help
  72. ^ Bahn, Chester B December 26, 1956 "Brynner, Magnani Cop Filmland's Poll Stevens' Direction of 'Giant' Votes Year's Best In National Poll Of Critics; Perkins Is '56 Discovery; 3 Honors To Strasberg" The Sandusky Register Retrieved May 8, 2014 
  73. ^ "The Ten Commandments 1 nomination" goldenglobesorg Retrieved August 19, 2013 
  74. ^ "Palmarés década 50 - Fotogramas de Plata" fotogramases Fotogramas es Retrieved 19 August 2013 
  75. ^ "National Board of Review of Motion Pictures - Awards - Best Actor" nbrmporg Retrieved 29 August 2013 
  76. ^ a b c d e "Register of the Cecil B DeMille Photographs, ca 1900s-1950s, 1881-1959" Brigham Young University Retrieved 29 August 2013 
  77. ^ "Boxoffice Magazine - February 16, 1957, pg 26" Boxoffice Retrieved August 29, 2013 
  78. ^ a b "Hollywood Report: Baltimore" Boxoffice May 4, 1957 Retrieved May 8, 2014 
  79. ^ "DeMille Honored For Bible Movie" Spokane Daily Chronicle March 19, 1957 Retrieved May 8, 2014 
  80. ^ "Jewish Award For DeMille" The Spokesman-Review March 20, 1957 Retrieved May 8, 2014 
  81. ^ L Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Philadelphia 1967; A Shinan, "Moses and the Ethiopian Woman: Sources of a Story in The Chronicle of Moses", Scripta Hierosolymitana 27 1978
  82. ^ Jacobson, Colin "The Ten Commandments 1956 - DVD Movie Guide" DVD Movie Guide Retrieved April 1, 2014 
  83. ^ "The Ten Commandments Special Collector's Edition" DVD Talk Retrieved April 1, 2014 
  84. ^ "The Ten Commandments - 50th Anniversary Collection" DVD Talk Retrieved April 1, 2014 
  85. ^ Tom Woodward January 12, 2011 "Paramount has revealed official details on the 1956 Charlton Hestone movie" DVD Active Retrieved January 12, 2011 
  86. ^ "Home Media Award Winners by Category" Home Media Magazine Retrieved April 1, 2014 
  87. ^ de Moraes, Lisa April 5, 1999 "The 'Ten Commandments': ABC's Exodus" The Washington Post 
  88. ^ TV Guide listings for March 29 – April 4, 1997
  89. ^ "ABC to Broadcast "The Ten Commandments" on Easter" Channel Guide Magazine 
  90. ^ Robert Seidman April 4, 2010 "TV Ratings: Duke Blows Past West Virginia, Moses" TV by the Numbers 
  91. ^ "Network Overnight Daily TV Nielsen Ratings – Saturday, April 23, 2011" Television-RatingsINFO April 25, 2011 Retrieved April 26, 2011 
  92. ^ Berman, Marc "The Ten Commandments Lifts ABC to Saturday Victory" TV Media Insights Retrieved 5 September 2013 
  93. ^ "TV Ratings Saturday: NCAA Basketball Easily Wins Pre-Easter Saturday" TV by the Numbers March 31, 2013 Retrieved March 31, 2013 
  94. ^ "TV Ratings Saturday: Moses Knocks Out 'UFC on FOX' as 'The Ten Commandments' Wins Night; 'Dateline' & '48 Hours' Rise" TV by the Numbers April 20, 2014 Retrieved April 20, 2014 
  95. ^ "TV Ratings Sunday: 'Madam Secretary' Slides, 'The Good Wife' Stays at Low + 'American Odyssey' Premieres Soft as 'AD: The Bible Continues' Tops Night" TV by the Numbers April 6, 2015 Retrieved April 6, 2015 
  96. ^ Porter, Rick March 27, 2016 "TV Ratings Saturday: NCAA dominates for CBS, ‘Ten Commandments’ down a bit" TV by the Numbers Retrieved April 1, 2016 
  97. ^ Welch, Alex April 16, 2017 "TV Ratings Saturday: ‘Ransom’ finale falls, NHL Playoffs perform well" TV by the Numbers Retrieved May 3, 2017 


  • Birchard, Robert 2004 Cecil B DeMille's Hollywood University Press of Kentucky ISBN 0813123240 
  • Block, Alex Ben; Wilson, Lucy Autrey, eds 2010 George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success HarperCollins ISBN 9780061963452 
  • DeMille, Cecil B 1959 The Autobiography of Cecil B DeMille Prentice Hall ISBN 0824057570 
  • Eyman, Scott 2010 Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B DeMille Simon & Schuster ISBN 1439180415 
  • Hall, Sheldon; Neale, Stephen 2010 Epics, spectacles, and blockbusters: a Hollywood history Wayne State University Press ISBN 978-0-8143-3008-1 
  • Louvish, Simon 2008 Cecil B DeMille: A Life in Art Macmillan ISBN 0312377339 
  • Noerdlinger, Henry 1956 Moses and Egypt University of Southern California Press ISBN 1258130270 
  • Reid, John Howard 2013 Big Screen Bible Lore Raleigh, North Carolina: Lulu Books p 144 ISBN 978-1304300300 
  • Reid, John Howard 2006 Hollywood Classics Title Index to All Movies Reviewed in Books 1-24 Raleigh, North Carolina: Lulu Books p 315 ISBN 978-0557720866 
  • Orrison, Katherine 1999 Written in Stone: Making Cecil B DeMille's The Ten Commandments Vestal Press ISBN 1461734819 
  • Wilcoxon, Henry; Orrison, Katherine 1991 Lionheart in Hollywood: the autobiography of Henry Wilcoxon Metuchen, NJ and London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc ISBN 0-8108-2476-0 

External linksedit

  • Official website
  • The Ten Commandments on Internet Movie Database
  • The Ten Commandments at the TCM Movie Database
  • The Ten Commandments at Box Office Mojo
  • The Ten Commandments at Rotten Tomatoes
  • Production design drawings for The Ten Commandments, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  • Costume design drawings for The Ten Commandments, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

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